As the never-ending COVID-19 pandemic slogs along, many businesses have now re-opened, while some are still closed, and a significant number have many of their employees working remotely, at least wherever possible. This remote, “in-between” existence obviously poses several challenges for companies and employees alike. However, one impact that does not often get discussed is how conducting operations remotely impacts the ability of a minority owner to fully appreciate everything that is going on within his or her own company.
Minority Owners Being Frozen Out
Most people reading a blog about business divorce start out from the premise that some sort of issue already exists between the business partners. Often, the issue is a lack of trust. But that lack of trust rarely springs from nowhere, with no underlying basis at all. It often is the result of a lack of communication, which can be inadvertent or quite intentional. I have told minority owners to stay informed and involved, as much as possible to avoid just such issues, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to simply be more present in the office. Walk around, talk to your employees, show that you want to know details. In short, communicate your desire to be involved and informed, but also be in your partner’s face, demonstrating essentially that you won’t take “no” for an answer when it comes to basic information.
However, when nearly everyone is working remotely, you can’t just walk around the office, spend more time talking to people at the coffee machine, or just pop into an employee’s space to share an idea. Zoom meetings have become the new norm for many companies, and there seems to be an epidemic of minority owners being excluded from these meetings, usually, of course, “unintentionally.”
Business Partner Divorce During COVID-19
If you are a minority owner who has a lesser role in running things than the majority owner, that does not preclude you from having your own video chats with key employees. If you are consistently being excluded from key video meetings by your business partner, and you think it is intentional – designed to freeze you out from key issues – make your objection known in writing.
Often, if you consult with a business divorce attorney and go through all the facts, the two of you may conclude that there was a valid reason for not having you involved in certain things. For example, if you have nothing to do with sales and have never been to a sales meeting before, not having you at a sales meeting does not foreshadow a greater desire to freeze you out of operations. However, if you are a one-third owner and you express a desire to be at a sales meeting because strategic decisions are being made and your partner won’t even share sales data with you, your concerns may be well-founded.
Every case is different, just as every company (and set of owners) is different. Discuss your concerns with a business divorce professional so that they can be dealt with before the only way to address them is in the courts.
©2020 Norris McLaughlin P.A., All Rights ReservedNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 273